Rivian Automotive is certainly having a moment.
The Plymouth, Michigan-based startup is attracting the attention of some of America’s biggest companies after making headlines at November’s Los Angeles Auto Show. People familiar with the matter told Reuters that Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN) and General Motors Co. (GM) are in talks to buy minority stakes in Rivian in a deal that would value the electric vehicle (EV) manufacturer at between $1 billion and $2 billion.
Rivian was founded in 2009 by R.J. Scaringe. The 36-year-old MIT-grad also serves as CEO. Initially, the startup began developing an electric sports coupe, similar to Tesla Inc.’s (TSLA) Roadster. However, those plans were later shelved to focus on gaps in the market.
Rather than rushing, Rivian bided its time developing EV technology. Over the past decade, the company focused on putting the right foundations in place, strengthening its supply chain, manufacturing prowess and hiring top talent. Rivian’s director of engineering previously worked for McLaren Automotive, while its vice president of design worked at Jeep and oversaw the development of Grand Cherokee and Wrangler.
Armed with 700 staff employed across five sites and about $450 million of raised capital, the company finally unveiled its first two battery-powered autos in Los Angeles last November. The R1S, a seven-seat sport utility vehicle, and its R1T pickup truck wowed spectators and led some analysts to warn that Tesla’s days as the dominant EV firm could be numbered.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk said in the past that he’d like to launch an electric pickup next, although at this stage it looks likely that Rivian will be the first company to achieve this. The startup aims to get its high-powered truck to market in the fall of 2020.
The R1T, which is designed to go off-road, tow thousands of pounds of cargo and accelerate from zero to 60mph in three seconds, has a range of up to 400 miles per charge and is set to be priced from about $69,000. Another perk is its skateboard-style chassis. Packing the drive units, battery pack, suspension system, brakes and cooling system below wheel height provides greater storage space and stability.
But perhaps the most noteworthy thing about the R1S and R1T is the 180 kWh battery "megapack," the greatest of the three battery pack configurations available. It holds 80% more energy than those in the Model S and Model X and can power a typical U.S. household for more than two weeks, according to Teslarati.
Rivian has also built an artificial intelligence charging system for batteries that can be used in other vehicles like electric jet skis, snowmobiles and tractors, reported TechCrunch.
The company plans to develop advanced self-driving technology with other firms, manufacture a five-passenger utility vehicle and leverage its skateboard technology by selling it separately, according to Forbes. Like Tesla, the startup intends to sell directly to consumers by placing a few display shops across the country.
Besides building its own charging infrastructure, the company says it is using the CCS standard charger so it can "partner with other manufacturers and the rapidly expanding independent networks to make charging accessible to Rivian owners."